Speaker Boehner: Obama Fixated on Headlines, Not Democracy for Cuban People

Saturday, August 15, 2015
Speaker Boehner on Reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) today issued the following statement on the reopening of the U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba:

While the United States has re-hung its ‘open for business’ sign in Havana, the Cuban dictatorship is continuing its business as usual.  Instead of embracing democracy and changing their oppressive behavior, the Castro regime has countered with a list of expensive demands and continued to deny basic freedoms to its own people. Once again, the Obama Administration’s fixation on collecting headlines by embracing and granting unilateral concessions to pariah states has not delivered real change in their behavior or improvement in the lives of their citizens. Opening the door to an embassy in Cuba will not open the door to democracy for the Cuban people.”

WSJ Editorial: Cuba No Libre

From The Wall Street Journal's Editorial Board:

Cuba No Libre

The U.S. outreach has changed little about life on the island.

‘Cuba’s future is for Cubans to shape,” declared Secretary of State John Kerry in Havana on Friday as he reopened the U.S. Embassy after 54 years. If only this were true. The reality is that Cuba’s future is still reserved for the Castro brothers and their political comrades to shape, and that hasn’t changed a whit since President Obama decided to recognize the Cuban regime in December.

“Having normal relations makes it easier for us to talk—and talk can deepen understanding even when we know full well that we will not always see eye-to-eye on everything,” Mr. Kerry said. This sums up the Obama vision of foreign policy, in which talk typically turns out to be its own reward.

Certainly there isn’t much to show so far for the U.S. outreach to Cuba. The U.S. has supplied the government run by Fidel and Raúl Castro and the military with much-wanted new global legitimacy. The U.S. has also eased travel restrictions to the island, and American business interests and the Obama Administration are lobbying Congress to end the U.S. trade embargo.

What hasn’t changed is life for average Cubans who aren’t connected to the ruling elite. They are still paid in relatively worthless pesos even when they work for foreign businesses that give the government hard currency for their labor. They can still be arrested if they use the Internet to hear independent news about the world or Cuba. And they will be arrested if they protest against the government. Only last Sunday the government detained for four and half hours 90 Cubans who protested against Mr. Kerry’s visit for emboldening the regime’s crackdown on dissent.

“The leaders in Havana and the Cuban people should also know that the United States will remain a champion of democratic principles and reforms,” Mr. Kerry said, and we’d like to think this is true too.

But the U.S. failed to invite Yoani Sanchez, an important Cuban blogger unloved by the regime, to the Embassy event. Also kept away from the Embassy were some of the Spanish-speaking media with large audiences in Miami that are not all enamored of the President’s Cuban outreach. But all the big U.S. media networks were on hand to record the historic day. They might learn more if they stayed to travel around the island, but the government restricts where foreign media can go.

The new Embassy replaces a U.S. “interests section,” which was a place where Cubans could go to get some support and occasionally protection. What a shame it would be if, in the name of opening Cubans to the outside world, the U.S. Embassy becomes a place where dissidents fear to tread because America doesn’t want to jeopardize better relations with the Castros.

Rubio: On Iran and Cuba, U.S. Must Lead Through Strength and Example

Friday, August 14, 2015
Remarks by Marco Rubio at the Foreign Policy Initiative in New York City on August 14, 2015:

America must lead through strength and example, not weakness and concession

As we gather here today, two historic events are in progress. The first is the arrival of Secretary of State John Kerry in Cuba. The second is President Obama’s continued campaign to secure Congressional approval for his nuclear deal with Iran.

While numerous crises around the globe will require the attention of America’s next president, I would like to focus my remarks today on these two dangerous developments with Iran and Cuba, as I believe they represent the convergence of nearly every flawed strategic, moral, and economic notion that has driven President Obama’s foreign policy, and as such are emblematic of so many of the crises he has worsened around the world.

These deals demonstrate with jarring clarity how this administration has failed to anticipate impending crises, ignored the realities of the globalized economy, and sought to make America liked rather than respected; the way it has placed politics before policy, adversaries before allies, and legacy before leadership; the way it has confused weakness for restraint, concession for compromise, and — most simply of all — wrong for right.

To fully understand what we’re dealing with in regards to Iran and Cuba, we have to understand who we’re dealing with.

In Iran, we face radical Shia clerics who wish to one day unite the world under Islam and believe this will only happen after a cataclysmic showdown with the West; leaders who have been directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans in the last decade, who continue to lead chants of “Death to America” each week, and who refuse to stop financing terrorists that seek to kill Americans and wipe Israel off the map.

In Cuba, we face proudly anti-American leaders who continue to work with nations like Russia and China to spy on our people and government; who harbor fugitives from American justice; and who stand in opposition to nearly every value our nation holds dear by violating the basic human rights of their own people, preventing democratic elections, and depriving their nation’s economy of freedom and opportunity.

The world has missed having an American President who speaks honestly about the world in which we live. In the eyes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the Cuban people are suffering because not enough American tourists visit the country, when the truth is the Cuban people are suffering because they live in a tyrannical dictatorship.

The same President who visited a US prison to talk about inequities in our criminal justice system is silent about the fact that minor offenses in Iran and Cuba are punishable by indefinite detention, torture, or even death — and these offenses often include nothing more than speaking out with the wrong political opinion.

Instead of focusing his criticism on these illegitimate governments, the President has attacked opponents of his policy here at home — going so far as to demonize critics of his Iran policy as “lobbyists with money” and “warmongers,” and those opposed to his Cuba policy as “practitioners of ethnic politics.” This shameful, derogatory rhetoric should have no place in our democracy, especially from our President.

Centuries of global affairs tell us the best way to affect an outcome with volatile leaders is through strength and example, while the worst is through weakness and concession. Yet weakness and concession are the preferred tools of statecraft for this administration.

President Obama has not only permitted Iran to retain its entire existing nuclear infrastructure, he has also endorsed the construction of a full-scale, industrial-size nuclear program within 15 years. He has conceded a vast enrichment capacity, preserved Iran’s fortified underground facility, and failed to secure anytime/anywhere inspections. He has virtually guaranteed Iran becomes a regional power with the ability to build long-range missiles capable of hitting the U.S. homeland. And on top of all this, he wants to hand Iran $100 billion in sanctions relief, which will be used in part to fund Hamas and Hezbollah, promote instability in Bahrain and Yemen, and prop up Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

He has given all of this away without any commitment that Iran will end its support for terrorism, accept Israel’s right to exist, or return a single American hostage. In short, the deal with Iran isn’t a deal at all. It is a string of concessions to a sworn adversary of the United States. The negotiations with Cuba have proven equally one-sided:

President Obama has rewarded the Castro regime for its repressive tactics and persistent, patient opposition to American interests. He has unilaterally given up on a half-century worth of policy toward the Castro regime that was agreed upon by presidents of both parties. He has ensured the regime will receive international legitimacy and a substantial economic boost to benefit its repression of the Cuban people, which has only increased since the new policy was announced.

And as a symbol of just how backward this policy shift has turned out to be, no Cuban dissidents have been invited to today’s official flag-raising ceremony at the US Embassy in Havana. Cuba’s dissidents have fought for decades for the very Democratic principles President Obama claims to be advancing through these concessions. Their exclusion from this event has ensured it will be little more than a propaganda rally for the Castro regime.

So I will make this pledge here and now: As president, as a symbol of solidarity between my administration and those who strive for freedom around the world, I will invite Cuban dissidents, Iranian dissidents, Chinese dissidents, and freedom fighters from around the world to be honored guests at my inauguration.

President Obama has made no such effort to stand on the side of freedom. He has been quick to deal with the oppressors, but slow to deal with the oppressed. And his excuses are paper-thin.

He has made the argument that if the embargo hasn’t worked for 50 years, we should try something new. My question is: Why hasn’t he made a similar argument to the Castro regime? For over 50 years, they’ve tried tyranny and Communism and it hasn’t worked. The Cuban people have a standard of living well below that of virtually every other nation in the hemisphere.

He has also made the claim that the people of Cuba do not have access to twenty-first century technology because of the U.S. embargo. This is false. They don’t have access because the Castro regime has made it illegal. The notion that the Cuban people will be allowed freedom of speech and freedom of information now that President Obama has made concessions to the very government denying them these rights is complete fiction.

The concessions to Iran and Cuba both endanger our nation. The deal with Cuba threatens America’s moral standing in our hemisphere and around the world, brings legitimacy to a state sponsor of terror, and further empowers an ally of China and Russia that sits just 90 miles from our shore. And if the effort to stop the Iran deal in the Senate fails, the threat posed will be truly historic: a nuclear arms race will likely overtake the Middle East, and the national security stakes of the election before us will become higher than those of any election since the Cold War.

Hillary Clinton not only supports these two deals, she now brags about her instrumental role in bringing them to fruition. Hillary Clinton will not overturn these deals as president. I will.

Beginning on day one, I will undertake a three-part plan to roll back President Obama’s deal with Iran and repair the damage done to America’s standing in the Middle East.

First, I will quickly reimpose sanctions on Iran. I will give the mullahs a choice: either you have an economy or you have a nuclear program, but you cannot have both. I will also ask Congress to pass crushing new measures that target human rights abusers and Iran’s leaders involved in financing and overseeing Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism.

Second, I will ensure our forces in the Middle East are positioned to signal readiness and restore a credible military option. This will be bolstered by my administration’s efforts to rebuild our military by ending defense sequestration once and for all.

Third, after imposing crippling sanctions on Iran, I will link any talks to Iran’s broader conduct, from human rights abuses to support for terrorism and threats against Israel. I will insist that a deal must terminate Iran’s nuclear program. Iran will never be allowed to build a nuclear weapon if I become president — not now, not decades from now.

That would be my policy with Iran — there would be no room for equivocation, no room for manipulation, and no room for cheating. Some will say there would also be no room for negotiations. But history proves otherwise. Iran may not return to the table immediately, but it will return when its national interests require it to do so.

I will undertake an equally bold plan to roll back President Obama’s concessions to the Castro regime.

First, on day one, I will give the Castros a choice: either continue repressing your people and lose the diplomatic relations and benefits provided by President Obama, or carry out meaningful political and human rights reforms and receive increased U.S. trade, investment, and support.

Second, I will restore Cuba to the state sponsor of terror list until it stops supporting designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations, helping North Korea evade international sanctions, or harboring fugitives from American justice.

Third, I will do everything in my power to provide support to Cuba’s pro-democracy movement, promote greater access to uncensored information for the Cuban people, and deprive the Castro regime of the funding for its repressive security state.

These are the actions required to restore the safety and security President Obama has cost us through his diplomacy with dictators.

When it comes to the challenges posed by Iran and Cuba, our task is straightforward: we must prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon and we must guarantee that the United States stands on the side of the Cuban people, not their oppressors. But we also know that ‘straightforward’ is not a synonym for ‘easy.’

Confronting these challenges — and the many other crises we face around the world — will require what has always been required: leadership. Principled leadership — based on strategy and security, not politics or legacy — is what I intend to offer our nation and the world in the years ahead.

Menendez: Kerry Meets With Castro Regime in Sunlight, But Keeps Dissidents in Shadows

Menendez Statement on American Embassy Opening in Cuba

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) today issued the following statement on the American embassy opening in Cuba:

A flag representing freedom and liberty will rise today in a country ruled by a repressive regime that denies its people democracy and basic human rights. This is the embodiment of a wrongheaded policy that rewards the Castro regime's brutality at the expense of the Cuban people's right to freedom of expression and independence.

This past Sunday, Cuban agents arrested over 90 peaceful protestors, and today – barely a week after this all too common demonstration of arbitrary, heavy handed police force – Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to Cuba is validation of the Castro regime's repressive policies. He will meet Cuban officials in the sunlight, but not the leaders and activists of Cuban civil society who live in the shadows and are tormented by the state.

When our flag rises in the courtyard of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, missing will be Berta Soler of the Ladies in White, UNPACU leader Jose Daniel Ferrer, human rights activists like Guillermo Fariñas and Antunez, independent journalists and bloggers, or bereaved family members of dissidents who deserve a better future.

It is shameful that on the grounds of our embassy in Havana, the Cuban regime can dictate to the United States government who may or may not attend this ceremony. If dissent is denied in the courtyard of the U.S. Embassy, it will never be allowed anywhere in Cuba. These are not values I associate with the United States.

This is a one-sided deal that is a win for the Cuban regime and a loss for the Cuban people. The U.S. Embassy in Havana will be a hollow one, with the Cuban government limiting our diplomats the freedom of movement. It will be diplomacy for show, not in practice.

The United States' flag should only fly in Cuba when the island is free, when dissent is embraced, and when democracy is restored.”

Jeb: U.S. Policy Has Changed, But Cuba Has Not

Jeb Bush’s Response to Secretary Kerry’s Visit to Havana, Cuba

Governor Jeb Bush released the following statement today, regarding Secretary Kerry’s visit to Havana, Cuba.

Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Havana is a birthday present for Fidel Castro – a symbol of the Obama Administration’s acquiescence to his ruthless legacy. U.S. policy has changed, but Cuba has not. It remains an unyielding dictatorship, a tragic example of the folly of communism, and an affront to the conscience of the free nations of the Western Hemisphere.

The accommodation of the Castro regime comes at the expense of the freedom and democracy that all Cubans deserve, but Secretary Kerry’s visit is especially insulting for Cuba’s dissidents. That courageous Cubans whose only crime is to speak out for freedom and democracy will be kept away from the official ceremony opening the U.S. Embassy is yet another concession to the Castros.

We need an American president who will work in solidarity with a free Cuban people, if I am elected President, I will reverse Obama’s strategy of accommodation and appeasement and commit to helping the Cuban people claim their freedom and determine their future, free from tyranny. Standing up for fundamental human rights and democratic values should not be an afterthought to America’s Cuba policy, it should be its guiding principle.

Chairman Royce: U.S. Flag Raised in Cuba Today, But Obama Again Lowered Expectations

Chairman Royce Comments as Cuban Civil Society Shut Out of U.S. Embassy Ceremony

Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued this statement following the ceremonial opening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana.  Cuban dissidents were not invited by the U.S. State Department to the event, attended by Secretary of State John Kerry.

The flag raised over the US embassy in Havana stands for freedom and democracy.  Cubans struggling against the Castro regime for the ideals behind the Stars and Stripes - freedom of speech, assembly, and other basic rights - deserved to see the flag hoisted.  Why are these brave Cubans being kept out of sight?  The U.S. flag was raised today, but the Obama Administration again lowered expectations that it will seriously push the Castro brothers on human rights.

Chairman Duncan: New Embassy Appeases Cuban Dictators, Betrays American Principles

In response to the opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Cuba, Congressman Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, released the following statement:

"Today, Secretary Kerry continues President Obama's global policy of appeasement to dictators with his visit to Cuba. His decision to legitimize the only Communist government in the Western hemisphere by opening a U.S. embassy betrays longstanding U.S. principles. We should be standing in solidarity with those courageous enough to fight for freedom, rather than pacifying the Castro regime yet again. President Obama's numerous concessions to Castro have resulted in little if any positive results for the American or Cuban people. The thousands of American properties stolen by Castro are not even an item on the discussion agenda for this trip.

Moving forward, U.S. diplomats now must notify the Communists of where they want to travel in Cuba, and U.S. diplomatic security depends on local guards provided by the Communists who are notable for their significant counter-intelligence operations against Americans. Cuba ranks among the top ten countries in the world for censorship; arrests and imprisonment of Cuban dissidents continue unabated; and religious freedom remains virtually nonexistent for the Cuban people. In other words, this whole trip is a sham.

I find it reprehensible that under the Obama Administration, the U.S. has retreated from our Founding Fathers' principles, ignored the national security implications of its actions, and ultimately legitimized a Communist government that continues to harbor terrorists and abuse its people."

Old Glory Does Not Look Happy

Below is an image of the U.S. flag, as it was being raised in Havana this morning.

It literally looks sad, reluctant and caught in the ropes.

It was not gallantly streaming.

Perhaps it is ashamed of the immoral conditions the Obama Administration accepted from the Castro dictatorship.

Perhaps it is saddened that the Obama Administration has relegated the pursuit of freedom and democracy in Cuba.

Perhaps it is disappointed that Cuba's courageous democracy leaders, those who share its principles, were shunned by the Obama Administration.

Perhaps it saw U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's deceitful, self-absorbed wink to the cameras as it was being hoisted.

Perhaps it knows that it is being forced to accept a bad deal.

WaPo Editorial: The U.S. Outrageously Snubs Cuban Dissidents

From The Washington Post's Editorial Board:

The U.S. outrageously snubs Cuban dissidents

THE AMERICAN flag is a powerful symbol of the country’s long and noble struggle to defend the values of freedom and democracy. When Secretary of State John F. Kerry raises it over the U.S. embassy in Cuba on Friday, the ceremony will mark an end to a half-century of hostility between the two nations. President Obama has gambled that establishing normal relations with Cuba — commerce, information, culture and “soft power” — is the best way to change the isolated island, still in the grip of the Castro brothers and their sclerotic revolution.

What’s unfortunate about the scenario planned for Havana is that Mr. Kerry has decided to omit the very people in Cuba who embody the values that the American flag represents: human dignity, the wisdom of the individual above the state and free access to basic rights of expression in speech, assembly and thought. These people — the dissidents in Cuba who have fought tirelessly for democracy and human rights, and who continue to suffer regular beatings and arrests — will not be witnesses to the flag-raising. They were not invited.

The official U.S. explanation for excluding the dissidents is that the flag-raising ceremony is a government-to-government affair. This is lame. Inviting the dissidents would be a demonstration to Raúl and Fidel Castro of what the flag stands for: people freely choosing their leaders, a pluralism of views and a public engaging in the institutions and traditions of a healthy civil society. Not inviting them is a sorry tip of the hat to what the Castros so vividly stand for: diktat, statism, control and rule by fear.

It would not have been hard to find witnesses to this turning point who have been muzzled and physically injured in their quest to be heard: dissidents Jorge Luis García Pérez and Antonio Rodiles, the blogger Yoani Sánchez, members of the Ladies in White, to name just a few. Mr. Kerry offers to meet with some of them separately, out of public view. It is insulting and acquiesces in the Castros’ desire that the dissidents be hidden away.

In a sense, the “government-to-government” excuse exemplifies what has been wrong in Mr. Obama’s outreach from the start. Engagement could help spark change in Cuba; most Cuban democrats agree. But it won’t happen automatically: Just look at China, with its capitalism and wealth blended with increasingly repressive rule.

Mr. Obama could have designed an engagement policy that made room for human rights and its courageous advocates, as he once promised them he would do. Instead, he’s bestowed all legitimacy on a government that can claim none in its own right — that rules through force, and not the consent of the governed. Maybe Mr. Kerry can at least leave an empty chair at the ceremony to symbolize the people, and the values, that will be kept outside the fence.

Cuban Dissidents Reject Kerry's Insulting Second-Fiddle Offer

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told media outlets yesterday that the reason why Cuban dissidents aren't invited to the flag-raising ceremony at the new U.S. Embassy in Havana is because there isn't enough space.

What a pathetic -- and untrue -- excuse.

The courtyard of the U.S. Embassy in Havana is easily four to five times the size of the Cuban Embassy's in Washington, D.C.

Yet, the latter invited over 500 guests to its flag-raising ceremony, including their lobbyists, apologists and a Code Pink delegation to party outside.

The real reason why Kerry is not inviting Cuban dissidents to the flag-raising event is because the Castro regime doesn't want them there -- and the Obama Administration has shamefully acquiesced.

In other words, the Obama Administration is (once again) lowering our standards to raise the flag.

Instead, Kerry has offered to meet Cuban dissidents "in a closet" of the Ambassador's residence afterwards.

This morning, Berta Soler of The Ladies in White and Antonio Rodiles of Estado de Sats, who have been leading the courageous Sunday demonstrations against the Castro regime (in the face of rising violence and repression), rejected Kerry's insulting second-fiddle offer.

The image of the flag-raising ceremony at the Embassy will be of the U.S. standing side-by-side with the oppressors of the Cuban people. 

It will forever be captioned -- "No dissent is allowed."

Ladies in White Leader Berta Soler on Kerry's Snub of Cuban Dissidents

It’s a way to silence those of us who are fighting every day to achieve some dignity in this country.
-- Berta Soler, head of the renowned pro-democracy group The Ladies in White, on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's snubbing Cuban dissidents from the U.S. Embassy event in Havana, USA Today, 8/13/15

Democracy Leader Antonio Rodiles on Kerry's Snub of Cuban Dissidents

We greatly regret that the Administration of Barack Obama didn't invite the opposition to be present at the official ceremony. We don't understand why the U.S. accepts the conditions of these dictators, of this regime.
-- Antonio Rodiles, Cuban democracy leader on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's snub of Cuban dissidents, Diario de Cuba, 8/13/15

Tweets of the Day: On Kerry's Hot Air and Shunning Cuban Dissidents

Secrecy Continues to Shroud Obama-Castro Deal

It's not a good sign when the Obama Administration is unwilling to reveal even the most basic details of the diplomatic deal struck to the American people.

So much for the "most transparent" Administration ever.

Excerpt from Politico:

Despite major changes in the relationship, the U.S. still won’t have unfettered access to the communist-led country and its people, and it will have to balance its ties to the Cuban government with those to dissidents seeking faster change.

The new diplomatic arrangement is such a sensitive topic that the State Department is extremely tight-lipped about the details; already the department has faced criticism for excluding Cuban dissidents from the flag-raising ceremony.

State officials are eager to note, for example, that instead of obtaining permission for travel from Cuban authorities, U.S. diplomats will now have to only give notification. They won’t say how much notification, however, nor whether the rule applies to all U.S. diplomats. State officials also say the U.S. will be able to add more personnel, but they won’t say how many more, even though such information can often be found in the public domain.

More Tourists Won’t Change Cuba

Thursday, August 13, 2015
By Amb. James Cason, former Chief of Mission at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, in The Miami Herald:

More tourists won’t change Cuba

On Friday, Secretary John Kerry opens up the new U.S. Embassy in Havana. Unfortunately, he shares many of the misconceptions advanced by former Secretary Hillary Clinton at her recent speech at Florida International University.

Her incursion into the debate on U.S. Cuba policy could have been a “teachable moment” had she been mindful of her academic audience and the danger of ignoring the facts when trying to justify an abrupt reversal of U.S. foreign policy. Instead she delivered another polemic on lifting what remains of the U.S. embargo.

Cubans, Clinton said, “want to buy our goods, read our books.” Yes, they do, and for 10 years now Havana has bought annually hundreds of millions of dollars of American foodstuffs on a cash-and-carry basis. As a former chief of mission at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, I can attest that over the years, we distributed several hundred thousand copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and tens of thousands of books in an effort to break the iron censorship imposed by Castro’s communist regime.

Promoting freedom just as we did in Eastern Europe, our efforts included shortwave radio broadcasts and distributing thousands of radio receivers.

The White House stood firmly behind American diplomats in Cuba. It did not yield even when the regime expelled a foreign-service officer for giving away copies of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Orwell’s book was published years before Cuba’s Revolution, and is a quintessential depiction of totalitarianism. Cubans readily grasp the context and, ironically, it was President Bill Clinton who initiated grants to American NGOs to buy and distribute books and radios in the island. President George W. Bush continued the initiative.

What would be “new” in the 21st Century would be for Raúl Castro to repeal his book bans and cease his censorship, harassment, and imprisonment of writers, broadcasters, readers, and listeners. Little will change until the regime “normalizes” its relationship with its own people by respecting human rights and earning their consent to be governed by holding free elections.

More tourists won’t change Cuba. Millions of Spanish-speaking tourists have visited Cuba and brought no change; neither will English-speaking American tourists. In all my years in the Foreign Service, tourists never became a major source of support for people struggling to attain freedom. If tourists did have such influence, there would not have been so many 20th-century Latin American dictators.

The administration’s “new” Cuba policy is a reversion to earlier eras — before adoption of the Democratic Charter by the Organization of American States — when the United States routinely sided with the region’s dictators.

“Engagement” does not require acquiescing to dictators, and the issue today is not “engagement” versus “no engagement.” The issue is: What kind of engagement? Sadly, the administration has made numerous concessions to Havana with no quid, pro quo in return.

In her speech, Clinton noted that President Bill Clinton ended his efforts to “normalize” relations with Cuba when Raúl Castro’s MiGs destroyed two small Cessnas flying in international airspace. Four men, who were searching for refugees adrift in the Florida Straits, were killed. At the time General Castro was Minister of the Armed Forces.

Mrs. Clinton suggested in her FIU speech that companies doing business in Cuba will push for political reforms. Companies now doing business in Cuba haven’t and don’t. American companies doing business in China, Burma, and other totalitarian states typically become apologists for the regimes — lest helping the victims of repression negatively impact their businesses.

What is really needed is for the world’s democracies to condition their economic and political engagement with Cuba to specific internal reforms. That, would be a real new policy.

MSNBC: U.S. Lowers Standards to Raise Flag in Cuba

Click below (or here) to watch this morning's interview with CHC Editor Mauricio Claver-Carone in MSNBC's The Daily Rundown:

Open Letter to John Kerry on His Cuba Visit

By Guillermo Martinez in Sun-Sentinel:

Kerry's visit to Cuba a disgrace to democratic principles

An open letter to John Kerry, Secretary of State

Dear Sec. Kerry:

Friday you are scheduled to embark on the first visit by an American Secretary of State to Cuba in 70 years.

That visit was by then Secretary of State Edward Stettinius and was a celebratory visit. The United States was close to winning the World War II, and Cuba had been its first ally in the Western Hemisphere.

The one prior to that was from Secretary of State Cordell Hull, and it lasted 13 days from July 19 to Aug. 1, 1940.

These two visits were bookends to a world war. Friday, you travel with much ballyhoo to raise the American flag at the re-opening of the American Embassy in Havana.

As television station KTLA in Los Angeles said: "A Cuban delegation of diplomats, artists and veterans of the revolution were to commemorate the breakthrough with about 500 guests and more than likely down a few celebratory mojitos and shots of Havana Club rum."

Unbelievable Mr. Secretary! This is a disgrace.

Your predecessors went to visit America's first ally in the Western Hemisphere during the United States' time of need. You go to raise a flag and down a few mojitos.

All this is fine and refined for a French-speaking diplomat who represents a president who wants his legacy to show he re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba despite all the obstacles Cuban President Raul Castro could put in his path.

Since the Dec. 17 announcement, Castro has said the Cuban communist government will not change. It's iron grip on all dollar producing businesses will continue, as will its repressive policies of beating up and arresting anyone who dares dissent from the regime.

Certainly some of your assistants may have told you that since President Obama made his historic announcement, the Cuban government has made it a point to increase its repressive measures against those in opposition to the regime.

Verifiable reports out of Cuba say the government and its squad of goons have doubled the number of dissidents beaten, harassed and imprisoned — anyone who dares say they want a democratic regime with free elections, freedom of expression and freedom from a totalitarian government that monitors every one of their moves.

What say you, Mr. Secretary, to these human rights abuses?

At some point during the last six plus months, I recall there was a weak statement from a State Department spokesman saying how disappointed the United States was by the human rights abuses in Cuba.

Baloney, Mr. Secretary!

And please pardon my lack of diplomacy. I am a simple journalist who was born in Cuba, who came to this country 55 years ago and love both countries with all my heart.

That is why I cry today, Mr. Secretary!

I cry because you have not given any indication that you will meet with any of the dissidents in Cuba.

You do not have what it takes to do honor to the many secretaries of state who have preceded you that defended the principles this country stands for in the face of enemy representatives.

And do not doubt it, Mr. Secretary. Cuba is a sworn enemy of the United States. If it can help Iran, it will. Russia is already readying itself to open "monitoring" facilities in the island.

Yet your president and you have taken it upon yourselves to shake hands, raise a flag and have a few drinks with 500 Cuban dignitaries. Maybe the five convicted spies will be in attendance. Be sure to shake their hands. also.

At this point Mr. Secretary there is only one thing you can do to avoid making this trip the disaster that it already is. You could, if you truly believe in the principles of what our founding fathers said in Philadelphia more than 200 years ago, demand to see the Cuban dissidents.

Go shake hands with them and say that freedom-loving Americans believe in their cause. Give them hope for a better tomorrow. Show them that the United States truly is looking for a day when Cuba will be a democracy again.

Sincerely,

Guillermo Martinez, a Cuban-born, American citizen. One who loves both countries with all his heart.

Rubio to Kerry: Show Me the Paper Trail on Cuba's Trafficking Upgrade

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, urged Secretary of State John Kerry to reconsider Cuba’s ranking in the State Department’s 2015 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, and demanded he turn over all prior drafts of the Cuba portion of the report, the names of all State Department and White House officials who signed off on the Cuba section, and a copy of the Cuban government’s national action plan to combat trafficking.

Here's the full text of the letter:

August 13, 2015

The Honorable John Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20220

Dear Secretary Kerry,

The politically driven manipulation of the State Department’s 2015 Trafficking In Persons (TIP) Report is an embarrassment for the Obama Administration that threatens to set back U.S. efforts against human trafficking around the world. For over 15 years, the report has helped encourage foreign governments to tackle human trafficking, if for no other reason than to avoid being named and shamed by the U.S. Now, according to whistleblowers within the State Department, the Administration has announced to the world that it will allow political considerations to trump real reform. President Obama and his Administration have set a dangerous precedent with this trafficking report that could lead countries to believe they can negotiate their way out of having their human trafficking abuses highlighted. This is a great disservice to the millions of people who have been victimized or are vulnerable to human traffickers.

The most glaring example is the politically driven improvement of Cuba from the “Tier 3” category to the “Tier 2 Watch List”. Since the State Department began evaluating Cuba in 2003, it has been placed on Tier 3 every year. Over the past year, Cuba has done almost nothing to combat human trafficking. In fact, while the 2015 trafficking report claims there were improvements in certain areas, Cuba still has not even bothered to create a single law that identifies labor trafficking as a crime. Additionally, the progress which was identified in convicting sex trafficking cases was minimal, an improvement of 3 cases in 2013. I appreciate every trafficker who faces the proper justice but I would not call an increase of 3 cases a major improvement and a major factor for an upgrade in tier ranking.

Another concerning aspect of Cuba’s upgrade, is that the information on Cuba’s efforts to combat trafficking came directly from the Cuban government, not from non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  Independent NGOs are unable to operate in Cuba and therefore it is impossible for the U.S. government to assess the situation on the ground beyond reports from the Cuban government.

As the Obama Administration encourages increased tourism to Cuba, it should be noted that child sex trafficking and child sex tourism continue to plague Cuba. According to the 2015 report, Cubans between the ages of 13 and 20 are the most vulnerable to human trafficking within Cuba. A major investigation in recent years by The Toronto Star, in conjunction with The Miami Herald, highlighted a report by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which cited Cuba as the most popular destination in the Americas for child sex tourism — and the Americas’ most visited region for Canadians traveling abroad for sex with kids. The Administration’s unfounded elevation of Cuba on human trafficking sends a chilling message that the U.S., at least under this president, is more interested in headlines about its historic Cuba policy than it is in challenging the Castro regime to protect Cuba’s youth from human trafficking exploitation.

It is important that the TIP report remain a true reflection of the trafficking situation on the ground and that a country’s rating never be determined by political considerations but by the country’s true record on this issue. The decision to upgrade Cuba without substantial evidence of improvement is the worst form of politicization of an important anti-trafficking tool. Cuba is a human slave state.

In closing, I urge you to reconsider Cuba’s ranking. Also, I formally request all prior drafts of the Cuba portion of the 2015 TIP Report, the names of all State Department and White House officials who signed off on the Cuba section of the report, and a copy of the Cuban Government's national action plan to combat trafficking. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to continuing to work with you on this important issue.

Sincerely,

Marco Rubio

Cuban Dissidents: Kerry Snub is a "Slap in the Face"

Wednesday, August 12, 2015
By Fox News:

Cuban dissidents say being snubbed from Embassy opening is ‘slap in the face’

José Lino Ascencio López, whose activism for freedom of speech and human rights in his native Cuba has landed him in jail there several times, wants to go the ceremony Friday for the historic opening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

But Lopez and other Cuban dissidents have not been invited by the Obama administration, which does not want to risk angering the Castro regime and ending up with Cuban officials boycotting a ceremony that is meant to be a key emblem of the renewed diplomatic relations between the two long-time adversaries.

“It is nothing less than a slap in the face to the opposition movement in Cuba,” Lopez said in an interview with Fox News Latino. “To explicitly keep away people who have risked their lives – whose blood has been shed, fighting for human rights, challenging the dictatorship of the Castro brothers – is an insult and an utter lack of compassion by U.S. officials.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry intends to meet more quietly with prominent activists later in the day, officials said. Kerry's visit is the first by a sitting U.S. secretary of state to Cuba since World War II.

Lopez says it is important for dissidents to be able to attend the ceremony because it makes a statement that human rights is respected and that their struggle is valued.

“There are many of us still in jail, simply for raising the issue of freedom, of liberty,” Lopez said. “It’s the dictatorship’s political police keeping the repression going.”

Lopez said that if the past is any indication, Cuban security forces will make sure to keep dissidents away from the area around the new U.S. Embassy.

“They mobilize their neighborhood watch groups and make sure that those of us who live outside Havana can’t reach it,” said Lopez, who lives in Santa Clara, which is about a three-hour drive from Havana. “They’ll arrest some dissidents to make sure they’re unable to cause problems.”

Lopez was among 53 dissidents released by Cuban authorities earlier this year as part of the accord with the U.S. government to restore diplomatic relations.

Kerry to Shun Cuban Dissidents From Embassy Event

Supporters of Obama's Cuba policy should be very proud of themselves.

In October 2014, we had warned:

"If relations with Cuba were normalized, the United States might occasionally raise the issue of human rights and democracy rhetorically -- but in practice it would be relegated to the bottom of the agenda."

And now, that's exactly what's happening.

The Obama Administration has completely lost its moral compass.

Think of the poor example this sets for other nations.

Is this how the international community will "press" the Castro regime on democracy and rights, as the Obama Administration contends?

In a nutshell, here's what "change looks like" in Obama's Cuba policy -- Castro si, disidentes no.

From AP:

Cuba dissidents won't attend US Embassy event

The Obama administration doesn't plan to invite Cuban dissidents to Secretary of State John Kerry's historic flag-raising at the U.S. Embassy in Havana on Friday, vividly illustrating how U.S. policy is shifting focus from the island's opposition to its single-party government. Instead, Kerry intends to meet more quietly with prominent activists later in the day, officials said.

The Cuban opposition has occupied the center of U.S. policy toward the island since the nations cut diplomatic relations in 1961. The Cuban government labels its domestic opponents as traitorous U.S. mercenaries. As the two countries have moved to restore relations, Cuba has almost entirely stopped meeting with American politicians who visit dissidents during trips to Havana.

Their presence at the embassy would have risked setting back the new spirit of cooperation the U.S. hopes to engender, according to the officials, who weren't authorized to speak publicly about internal planning and demanded anonymity. But not meeting them at all, they said, would send an equally bad signal.

Key dissidents told the AP late Tuesday that they had not received invitations to any of Friday's events.

Dissident Yoani Sanchez's online newspaper 14ymedio has received no credential for the U.S. embassy event, said editor Reinaldo Escobar, who is married to Sanchez.

"The right thing to do would be to invite us and hear us out despite the fact that we don't agree with the new U.S. policy," said Antonio Rodiles, head of the dissident group Estado de SATS.

The cautious approach is consistent with how Obama has handled the question of support for dissidents since he and Castro announced a prisoner swap in December and their intention to create a broader improvement in relations. The process has resulted in unilateral steps by Obama to ease the economic embargo on Cuba and last month's formal upgrading of both countries' interests sections into full-fledged embassies.

When senior diplomat Roberta Jacobson held talks in Havana in January, she met several government critics at the end of her historic trip but was restrained in her criticism of the government. Since then, American politicians have flooded Havana to see the sights, meet the country's new entrepreneurs and discuss possibly ending the U.S. embargo with leaders of the communist government.

According to an Associated Press count that matches tallies by leading dissidents, more than 20 U.S. lawmakers have visited Cuba since February without meeting the opposition groups that were once obligatory for congressional delegations.

Tragically, rather than being on their side:


The Obama Administration is now on his side:

Buoyed by Obama, Cuban Military Seeks to Double Hotel Empire

Last year, Hotels Magazine ranked Cuba's Grupo Turismo Gaviota as the largest Latin America-based hotel conglomerate.

Think about it: Cuba's Gaviota -- on its own -- is larger than any Mexican, Brazilian, Chilean, Argentinian, et al., hotel company.

Gaviota is owned by the Cuban military ("MINFAR"), through a holding company called GAESA (headed by Raul Castro's son-in-law, General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas).

Yes, the same Cuban military in charge of repression; subverting democracy in Venezuela; arms trafficking to North Korea and other rogue actors; and whose senior officials have been indicted by U.S. federal courts for the murder of Americans.

All together, GAESA's hotel empire is larger than that of the Walt Disney Company.

And now, encouraged by Obama's Cuba policy -- it seeks to double its size.

As Obama's smoke and rhetoric clears, the facts clearly show who the overwhelming beneficiary of the new policy is -- Castro's military monopolies.

And for agribusiness lobbyists, who have long-argued how more U.S. traveler income (to Castro's monopolies) would equal more U.S. agricultural sales (to Castro's monopolies), here's a sobering reality:

Since December 17th, U.S. travelers to Cuba have increased by 37%, while agricultural sales to Cuba have plummeted by 50%.

Finally, to add insult to injury, many of Gaviota's premier developments are on properties confiscated from Americans.

But sadly, American interests have been relegated in Obama's policy -- along with the democratic aspirations of the Cuban people -- in favor of appeasing Castro's dictatorship.

From The Latin America Herald Tribune:

Cuban State Tourism Agency Aims to Double Hotel Capacity by 2020

Cuba’s state-run Gaviota tourism agency plans by the year 2020 to nearly double its number of hotel rooms island-wide to 50,000, state television reported.

Gaviota expects to open three new hotels in Havana over the next three years as it bids to make the Cuban capital a premier urban tourism destination in the Caribbean.

One of the first steps in the expansion project will be the opening next year of a 246-room, five-star hotel in Old Havana’s historic Manzana de Gomez building.

Set for 2017 is the reopening of the legendary Hotel Packard, with 300 rooms, while 2018 will see the launch of the Prado y Malecon facility, a new seaside inn with 208 guest rooms.

Gaviota’s three existing hotels in the capital, Quinta Avenida, Memories Miramar Havana, and H10 Panorama, are all located in the exclusive Miramar neighborhood.

The project will also include new hotels in the resort of Varadero beach, some 150 kilometers (95 miles) east of Havana, and in the northern keys off the provinces of Villa Clara, Ciego de Avila and Camagüey.

Six Caveats for Foreign Investors in Cuba

From The Palm Beach Post:

Before you go rushing into a business venture on the island that was the communist outpost in the Cold War, you might want to have a talk with Ross Thompson at Classified Worldwide Consulting, which has an office in West Palm Beach. Thompson, the firm’s managing director, has a few caveats to share.

In particular, Thompson cautions that Cuba’s foreign investment and business laws present six key challenges that Americans need to think through ahead of time. They are:

1. The Cuban government will own a majority stake in the company. A 49-51 percent split is common, but Havana has required a larger share in some sectors.

2. Your local workforce will be selected by the Cuban government. This selection may not be based on skill or merit but by seniority or cronyism.

3. Cuban managers will be appointed to mirror your handpicked managers, especially if your senior leadership includes Cuban exiles. The Cuban managers will ultimately control many decisions, or influence them, when dealing with your majority partner, the Cuban government.

4. Everything in Cuba is heavily influenced by Cuba’s intelligence service, the DGI. You must be very careful to guard your own corporate proprietary information.

5. Vendors you may work with may be fronts, or “cutouts,” for other foreign intelligence services such as those from China, Russia, Iran or North Korea. The capture and exchange of corporate confidential information is a lucrative business, so guard your files.

6. The Cuban government’s payment records and credit are poor. This means your majority business partner essentially has bad credit, and could present challenges for you when raising capital or seeking contracts. However, it could also move you to the front of the line when dealing with countries that have been historically friendly to Cuba.

Tweet of the Day: Obama's Policy Empowers Cuban Regime, Not People

Rubio to Kerry: Focus on Cuban Democracy Leaders During Friday's Visit

Tuesday, August 11, 2015
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, today urged Secretary of State John Kerry to demand freedom and respect for the human rights of the Cuban people during his upcoming visit to Havana.

Below is the full text of his letter:

August 10, 2015

The Honorable John Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20220

Dear Secretary Kerry,

When you visit Cuba this week, the Obama Administration will be sending its most chilling signal yet; that it views diplomatic relations with the Castro regime to be more important than the interests of the American people, or the basic human rights of the Cuban people. As I have said before, I will make sure that the embassy you are opening in Havana will not have a U.S. ambassador unless, at the very least, we see real political reforms and progress on human rights, the return to the U.S. of harbored terrorists and fugitives to face justice, and the resolution of outstanding American property claims and judgments against the Cuban government.

It is a diplomatic and moral failure on this Administration’s part to have moved forward with opening an embassy in Havana and providing the regime with a windfall of U.S. dollars without achieving any of our national interests in return. Rather than negotiate with Cuba from a position of strength, the Obama Administration chose to give away too much up front in exchange for the regime’s empty promises of future discussions.

Throughout the Obama Administration’s negotiations with Cuba, a demoralizing message was also sent to Cuba’s valiant pro-democracy movement, which had neither a voice nor a presence in these talks. Over the past eight months since President Obama announced his new Cuba policy, a steady stream of administration officials and members of Congress visited Cuba with few of them bothering to meet with Cuban democracy and human rights leaders and none demanding to meet with political prisoners. Not surprisingly, the regime has responded with an unprecedented wave of repression and political arrests.

Despite all the setbacks President Obama’s [policies] have inflicted on the cause of a free and democratic Cuba, I urge you to at least use the opportunity of your upcoming August 14th trip to Havana to demand the freedom and rights of the Cuban people. During your meetings with Cuban officials, you should demand that all political prisoners are released. During your visit, you should meet with the courageous leaders who are fighting to bring freedom to Cuba and invite them to the ceremony you will be presiding over at the new American embassy. This should include leaders such as Antonio Rodiles, head of Estado de SATS; Berta Soler, head of the Ladies in White; Jorge Garcia Perez Antunez, former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience and human rights activist; Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, a U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient; Ivan Hernandez Carrillo, former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience and labor leader; and Guillermo Farinas, recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

They, among many others, and not the Castro family, are the legitimate representatives of the Cuban people. For the Obama Administration to shun these courageous Cubans after years of enduring imprisonment, physical abuses, assassinations and threats would be another unforgivable betrayal of America’s moral leadership in the world. The Obama Administration has already given the Castro regime enough, and it stands to give away even more as it loosens business and travel regulations. At the very least, don’t send another message that, under this president, America cares more about endearing itself to the oppressors instead of standing up for the oppressed.

Sincerely,

Marco Rubio

Video: Cuban Dissidents Protest Wearing Obama Masks

Monday, August 10, 2015
Cuban independent journalist, Yuri Valle Roca, captured video footage of Sunday's demonstration -- where dissidents donned Obama masks to denounce the U.S. President's tragic complicity with the Castro regime.

It also shows when they were confronted and arrested by Castro's secret police.

Click below (or here) to watch:

When Was This Cuba Story Written?

The following article could have been written this week -- and some variant of it probably was -- by a journalist enthralled by the latest "change in Cuba" narrative.

And yet, Castro's regime remains as manipulative, monopolistic and repressive as ever.

So when was this story actually written?

From The New York Times:

On the Street, Cubans Fondly Embrace Capitalism

Less than a year into major economic changes that have opened the way for foreign investment and freed many Cubans to work for themselves, life in this city is being transformed by a new ethic: the frantic search for dollars.

Although Cuba's Communist leadership has often sought to rein in the changes, repeatedly reminding the people that it has not chosen capitalism as a solution to the country's grave economic problems, almost everywhere one looks these days private enterprise is filling voids left by an exhausted Government.

In special shops once reserved for diplomats, Cubans with dollars earned in small private businesses or sent by relatives abroad line up to buy basic imported goods, from bath soap to over-the-counter medicines, that failing Government enterprises can no longer supply.

Although these shops are owned by the state, and therefore are not examples of private enterprise, echoes of capitalism can be heard in the hum of activity around them.

Each of the diplo-tiendas, as the special stores are known, has spawned an outdoor market where, from the paid bicycle parking lot and carwashes to the fevered trading in home-grown produce, clothing and handicrafts, Cubans who have abandoned Government jobs now fend for themselves.

While capitalism is most evident in the street-corner flowering of petty commerce, Havana's biggest moves toward it involve foreign investors. At the International Center of Havana, a private business consulting concern that opened last fall, each month brings a handful of new European or Latin American companies hoping to get in on the ground floor of the transformation of a Cuban economy with enormous needs but also considerable potential.

Foreign business people here say the most important changes are in the attitudes of Cuban officials toward international investment.

"The investments which meet our needs are the ones we will greet," said Reynaldo Taladrid, deputy minister of the state committee that oversees new private investment in Cuba. "We need partners and we need foreign exchange."

But even as they have opened the door to foreign capital, Cuban officials, fearful that things may be getting out of hand, have recently stepped up warnings that the Communist Party leadership, far from embracing capitalism, intends to retain a Communist economy.

Ultimately, business executives and economic experts here say, Cuba will be guided by pragmatism. In November, the Government invited a two-member team from the International Monetary Fund to advise it on transformations under way in Eastern Europe and to make suggestions on Cuba's own changes.

According to the fund's summary report on the visit, the Government has concluded that without major changes the economy will inevitably collapse, "with all the accomplishments of Cuba's political and social model disappearing in the wreckage."

Answer: February 3rd, 1994

A Mother's Cry for Her Imprisoned Son

He says he wants to die. He says that death will bring him relief. That it will bring him freedom. That death will be his justice. My son has been subject to all types of torture, abuses and humiliations. He has been struck on the head requiring eight stitches. They tie his hands and feet, and tell him that's how they treat crazy people. They drag and throw him like a bag. Not even animals are treated as badly.
-- Meibol Sanchez Mujica, mother of 32-year old Cuban prisoner Enmanuel Abreu Sanchez, who is on the 90th day of a hunger strike pursuant to his imprisonment for "illegal exit," Diario de Cuba, 8/10/15

Donning Obama Masks, Over 100 Cuban Dissidents Arrested

Over 100 Cuban dissidents have been brutally beaten and arrested over the weekend, as they peacefully gathered and demonstrated against the Castro dictatorship.

First, on Friday, over a dozen members of renowned democracy leader Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet's Emilia Project were arrested.

They include Yuset Perez Moreira, Guillermo Rodriguez Cardenas, Emilio Otero, Gladys Capote Roque, Nieves Capote, Miguel Angel Tirador, Enrique Torres, Camila Araujo, Eduardo Ramos, Augusto Guerra Marquez, Ubaldo Herrera and Lazaro Garcia.

Then, on Saturday, Sonia Garro, a member of The Ladies in White, was brutally beaten (see image below).

Garro, who was released as part of the Obama-Castro deal, was later hospitalized and re-arrested.

Finally, for the 17th Sunday in a row, over 90 democracy activists, including 60 members of The Ladies in White were arrested, as they demonstrated donning Obama masks (see image below).

They denounced the Obama Administration's deals with the Castro dictatorship, which have sidelined Cuba's civil society and democracy movement.

Among those arrested were rocker Gorki Aguila, Claudio Fuentes, Camilo Olivera, Egberto Escobedo, Boris Gonzalez and Antonio Rodiles.

Meanwhile, the home of democracy leader Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez" was cordoned by regime officials, in order to prevent him from traveling to Havana to join the demonstration.

It was a scene akin to 2009's Green Revolution in Iran, whereby democracy activists questioned what side Obama was on -- a sad confirmation of the lack of "moral clarity" in his foreign policy.

This violence is taking place as Secretary of State John Kerry prepares his visit to Havana this week, and amid speculation that dissidents will not be invited to the flag-raising ceremony at the American Embassy, in order not to "offend" the Castro dictatorship.

It's "what change looks like" in Obama's Cuba policy.


Questions for Kerry in Cuba: Whom Will He Meet? What Will He Say?

By Elliott Abrams of The Council on Foreign Relations:

John Kerry, George Shultz, and the Kerry Visit to Cuba

Secretary of State Kerry will visit Cuba soon–on August 14.

Since the opening of diplomatic relations and of the Cuban embassy in Washington, what’s been going on in Cuba?

More repression. There were 630 political arrests in June, according to the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights. Jorge Ramirez Calderon, one of the political prisoners released as part of President Obama’s rapprochement with the Castro regime, was notified this week that he is facing a 4-year sentence for “public disorder.” His crime was joining a demonstration for human rights in March. So, while Kerry was celebrating the opening of Castro’s embassy in Washington, the Cuban regime was cracking down harder on the Cuban people.

This raises two important questions about that Kerry visit to Cuba. What will he say while in Cuba about human rights, and whom will he meet?

As to the speeches, these are critical. Will he call for freeing all political prisoners, for freedom of speech and press? Will he say the Cuban people must govern themselves through free, multi-party elections? Or will he be silent about the brutal repression Cubans face every day?

And will he meet with Cuban dissidents, or only with regime officials? The flag will be raised at the U.S. Embassy on September 14, and the Cuban foreign minister will be there. Will the Ladies in White, whose peaceful protests have for years kept the cause of freedom alive, be invited? Ironically, because so many leading Cuban dissidents are barred from leaving the island, they will be there and could come to the Embassy. What wonderful show of American support for freedom it would be for them to be invited.

What’s the worst thing that could happen? That the foreign minister or all Cuban officials would avoid the ceremony? That would be just fine, because our Embassy in Cuba should above all reach out to the Cuban people, not the regime. Let it be clear that we view the regime as a relic of the past; let the regime’s officials choose not to come if they cannot be in the same hall or on the same lawn as those who peacefully struggle for freedom in Cuba.

Is this impossible? Not at all; Secretary of State Shultz did something like this in Moscow in 1987. Here’s the New York Times account:

"Sixty Soviet Jews who have been denied their most passionate dream, emigration, joined Monday night to celebrate a festival recalling the liberation centuries ago from a hostile land. For the Passover meal, they had ritual matzoh to eat, kosher wine to drink–and George Shultz as their guest. The secretary of state, in an unprecedented demonstration of solidarity with Soviet Jews, joined the 'refuseniks' in an emotional observance of the Passover ceremony, known as a seder. Between day-and-night arms-control talks, Shultz used the break to demand that the Kremlin honor human rights. After spending several moments with each of the Soviet Jews at the seder, Shultz said: 'You are on our minds. You are in our hearts. We think about you, we pray for you, we are with you.'"

Think of the impact if Kerry were to meet with dissidents in Havana and say to them what his great predecessor said to dissidents in Moscow in 1987: “You are on our minds. You are in our hearts. We think about you, we pray for you, we are with you.” And that was in the capital of a superpower, not that of a tiny and bankrupt Cuba.

The ball is in Kerry’s court. Will he live up to the Shultz record and model, or cave to Castro regime pressure to stay away from dissidents and from the subject of human rights?

AFP: Cuba Arrests 90 Dissidents at Protest March

Sunday, August 9, 2015
Kudos to AFP.

While various foreign news bureaus witnessed Sunday's repressed demonstration and pursuant arrests in Havana, AFP was the only one with the journalistic integrity to report on it.

The others remain too worried (and submissive) about losing "permission" (from the Castro dictatorship) to cover Kerry's flag-raising charade this week.

From AFP:

Cuba arrests 90 dissidents at protest march

With tense bilateral ties recently renewed after five decades, and top US diplomat John Kerry due in Havana in days, Cuba arrested some 90 activists on Sunday.

Cuban security forces rounded up marchers -- about 50 with the Ladies in White dissident group and around 40 other activists, some wearing masks with the image of US President Barack Obama, according to an AFP reporter.

One protester slammed Obama, and said the December announcement to normalize relations between the former Cold war foes had bolstered Havana's crackdown on dissidents.

"It's his fault, what is happening," said former political prisoner Angel Moya, speaking about Obama.

"The Cuban government has grown even bolder," he added before being detained.

"That's why we have this mask on. Because it's his fault," said Moya, husband of Ladies in White leader Berta Soler.

Uniformed police and plainclothes officers were on hand at the incident in Havana's upscale Miramar district.

When marchers who were not arrested started to leave, pro-government activists chanted "down with the pack of worms."

Kerry will be in Havana Friday for the ceremonial inauguration of the newly reopened US embassy. On January 20, the countries officially reopened embassies in their respective capitals.

Soler said he hoped Kerry would meet with dissident groups and members of non-governmental organizations during the visit.

He said he also wants Kerry to pressure Havana to respect human rights in the country, where freedom of assembly and freedom of the press have been criticized.

Washington should "give the Cuban government some conditions to get it to stop violating human rights," Soler told AFP.

Kerry will be the first US secretary of state to visit Cuba since 1945, sealing what will be a major foreign policy legacy of Obama's eight-year tenure.

Cuba is the only one-party Communist-ruled nation in the Americas.